Republican vice-presidential nominee, GOP vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan, attempted on Wednesday to make the word “God” into a political wedge issue. He said that the Democratic Party “purged” mentions of God from their platform, and that is “not in keeping with our founding documents, our founding vision.”
It is well to keep in mind, of course, is that the word “God” is not in “our founding documents,” i.e. the Constitution. “Religious freedom,” however, is in both our “founding documents,” and in the Democratic National Platform.
But what is really troubling to me in Ryan’s statement is the subtext that saying, or even just printing the word “God,” is the same thing as being faithful to the movement of God in history. I believe Ryan is trying to say that somehow the Democratic Party is “against God.”
As a Christian minister and a lifelong Democrat, I know just how untrue that is. But even implying such a thing is dangerously divisive, and sets the different approaches to faith and values in our diverse American society against one another.
We must recognize that just saying the word “God” does not guarantee faithfulness; it can even be regarded as the opposite of faithfulness, an attempt to make an idol of an infinite God.
Judaism has held that the name of “God” should be unspoken (outside the temple). This fits with the meaning of the name given in Exodus 3:14, where Moses wants a “name” to take to the Israelites so they will believe him about God’s direction. God speaks, and uses the dynamic formulation of “I AM.” God said to Moses, “I am who I am. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I am has sent me to you.’”
Moses doesn’t get “a name,” Moses gets revelation of the infinite being of God. The gods of Egypt, by contrast, really were idols.
From a Christian perspective, faith in God is not demonstrated so much by “talking the talk” of using God language as much as it is “walking the walk” of doing what Jesus taught us to do. That is, feed the hungry, clothe the naked, house the homeless and care about those in prison.
When Jesus separates the “sheep and the goats,” the saved and the unsaved in Matthew 25:31-46, the only question that matters is whether someone cared for the “least of these,” the poor, the naked, the homeless and those in prison.
Those being judged ask Jesus, “‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’
Jesus replies, “‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’”
How does the “Ryan budget” stack up by that measure of faithfulness?